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Discussion of 7.07 "Conversations with Dead People" - Aired 11/12/02 (UPN-US)

FaithLehane16

"Tact is not saying true stuff. I'll pass."
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I honestly thought of what Buffy was telling Holden was bullcrap. Giles, Faith, Angel, Wesley, and Gunn can understand what she is going through. She isn't alone. Faith is a slayer. Giles and Wesley were her watchers and took part of an apocalypse. Angel pretty much has the same path she is going on. Gunn is a demon fighter.
 

katmobile

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I honestly thought of what Buffy was telling Holden was bullcrap. Giles, Faith, Angel, Wesley, and Gunn can understand what she is going through. She isn't alone. Faith is a slayer. Giles and Wesley were her watchers and took part of an apocalypse. Angel pretty much has the same path she is going on. Gunn is a demon fighter.
I don't think it's the same even with Faith although she's closest. Faith hasn't had to kill people she cared for and is new at having the burden of slayerdom responsibility on her.
 

Btvs fan

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Ok so Conversations with Dead People is universally praised. Joss Whedon had it in his none of his own written episodes Buffy top 10 (even though he did the Buffy/Holden scenes) . I'm also guessing it's going to be universally praised on here. So I thought I'd give an alternative view point.

Now don't get me wrong. I don't hate it and I love the Buffy/Holden scenes which get a 10 out of 10 for me. As well as the silent build and reveal to Spike killing. Also it's the best use if the Trio on the show. Jonathan's desperate desire to be accepted by the Scoobies and reminiscing about people in school and Andrew's blunt and correct rejoinder that none of them thinking about him, to Jonathan's equally great rejoinder about caring about them. Plus creepy First Warren is awesome too. All culminating in Andrew murdering Jonathan. It's great stuff.

So where does it fall down for me. Well one is not even the writers fault. The Cassie/Willow scenes. That would've worked if the First had been Tara which was the original intention but Amber Benson refused to return as she felt it would be disrespectful, so Cassie was brought in as a substitute. The problem is Cassie never had a single scene or moment with Willow, so it just falls flat.

The other is the Dawn scene. Now I don't care about Dawn. I don't hate her, I'm just indifferent, I'm just waiting for the scenes to end to get back to the more interesting Buffy/Holden stuff so from that side it falls flat for me. But another issue is the Joyce reveal at the end. At the time it aired I and others were confused as to whether it was Joyce or the First. The writers subsequently said it was meant to be the First . Anyway So what's the First endgame here. It gives a cryptic line to Dawn about Buffy not choosing her but given that it doesn't show up to Dawn again, what was the point ? Also if it was the First how was it able to effect the lights and things in the house ? It just feels like a dropped plot thread that had not been thought out. Unless you count Dawn and her magic zapper in End of Days an end point

So yeah 10 out of 10 for the Buffy scenes/ The Nerd scenes and even the Spike scenes but given it's also got the Dawn and Willow scenes as an episode as a whole I'm only going to give it a 7

So waiting for the disagreement
 
Ethan Reigns
Ethan Reigns
Keep waiting. I agree.
Priceless
Priceless
Dawn's scene is my favourite. But I do care about her.

Stake fodder

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I have a couple questions about this episode. One, what did Jonathan think they were doing by revealing the Seal? He clearly did not think it was evil. Did I miss something?

Two, Spike kills his victim on the well-lit front porch of her building. He doesn't accept her offer to go upstairs with her, and he doesn't attack her in the dark, empty street as he walks her home. So is there some part of Spike that, even under the First's influence, wants to be caught?
 

TriBel

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So is there some part of Spike that, even under the First's influence, wants to be caught?
Yup...probably. It's just a manifestation of his "kill me" plea to Buffy. Death's an easier option than living but Spike's all about living. It's the basic drives Thanatos (the death drive) and Eros (the life drive) in conflict. It's the same conflict/contradictory behaviour we saw in OMWF "I know I should go but I follow you like a man possessed" He knows what he should do but he can't. If someone else makes the decision he doesn't have to. That's why the arguments that say "why doesn't he walk into the sunlight" have no ground. He yearns for the oblivion of death but (in S6) he also thinks he can find the same plenitude with Buffy. S7's slightly different because of the soul - he believes he should be punished - but otherwise, it's very similar. It's debatable as to which drive wins out in the end.
 

Stake fodder

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He knows what he should do but he can't. If someone else makes the decision he doesn't have to.
But then, this would make him culpable for the deaths, whereas he is pretty much given a pass for them after his trigger is eliminated. Of course, he does almost kill Robin later, so I guess the unanswered question is, how much has the soul really changed him? Or, how much control does it exert vs. the demon still in him?
 

katmobile

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But then, this would make him culpable for the deaths, whereas he is pretty much given a pass for them after his trigger is eliminated. Of course, he does almost kill Robin later, so I guess the unanswered question is, how much has the soul really changed him? Or, how much control does it exert vs. the demon still in him?
I think this is a bit victim blamey - we all have our subconscious darkness but it's the decisions we make when we're in control of ourselves that truly define us. Not the ones when were under the control of others. If you get drunk that's on you if someone roofies you then that's on them. Also I'm not convinced Spike meant to kill Wood I think he was sending a message - back off because I can and I will if you keep trying to kill me.
 

thetopher

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Sineya
But then, this would make him culpable for the deaths, whereas he is pretty much given a pass for them after his trigger is eliminated.
I agree. I hate the idea of Spike somehow having even a little control of how/where he kills precisely because it makes him more culpable. He doesn't seem to be aware of any of his predatory behavior until he starts investigating.
Also this would mean that Spike would have even less control over himself when the trigger was revealed, which doesn't make much sense if he were subconsciously fighting it/wanting to be caught.
I don't even like the idea that he 'snapped out of it' when he tasted Buffy's blood, but at least there there is some relevance because of mind-contol in relation to Buffy's blood (as The Master and Dracula discovered)

Also Spike was given a pass way before the trigger was eliminated, that's kinda the problem.
 
T
thrasherpix
"Spike was given a pass way before the trigger was eliminated" QFT. That was the biggest problem, especially combined with other aspects I don't feel like rehashing now.

katmobile

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I agree. I hate the idea of Spike somehow having even a little control of how/where he kills precisely because it makes him more culpable. He doesn't seem to be aware of any of his predatory behavior until he starts investigating.
Also this would mean that Spike would have even less control over himself when the trigger was revealed, which doesn't make much sense if he were subconsciously fighting it/wanting to be caught.
I don't even like the idea that he 'snapped out of it' when he tasted Buffy's blood, but at least there there is some relevance because of mind-contol in relation to Buffy's blood (as The Master and Dracula discovered)

Also Spike was given a pass way before the trigger was eliminated, that's kinda the problem.
Because it's not his fault. Subconscious awareness and even resistance is not culpability because otherwise it's not fair - how can you condemn someone for what they can't control!

Also blood breaking mind control isn't unprecedented with Dracula something within his is what she reacts to breaking his hold over her. There's possibly something about the intimacy of how it smells or tastes or an echo of previous slayers that reminds him of stuff on his conscience.

It's also a possibility the First wants Buffy to find out and kill him.
 

thetopher

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Because it's not his fault. Subconscious awareness and even resistance is not culpability because otherwise it's not fair - how can you condemn someone for what they can't control!
I agree that it isn't his fault, but the idea of resistance is problematic. Spike stalked killed and turned up to a dozen humans which means that 'he' (the trigger part of him) was thinking, targeting and interacting with his victims, luring or conning or seducing or whatever. That isn't some zombie mind-control, that's a thinking agent of the First (hence the 'Sleeper' title).

You start speculating 'well, maybe he had enough wherewithal to control where he killed his victims and it begins to get murky. He could control where, he wanted to be stopped but couldn't, except that he could stop with Buff... so hey, maybe he could've tried harder then? Maybe he could've left Buffy a subconscious clue? Maybe he could select a particular victim? Instead of where it was who?
Maybe he targeted Holden because that guy is really chatty and insightful and knew Buffy and then maybe Holden would reveal who sired him. Maybe that was Spike's plan all along...

Unfortunately this is all speculation. One thing could lead to another and could lead to another and it becomes a Spike who is maybe can choose some stuff and therefor is both victim and victimizer.
Luckily I don't believe any of that because there's no in-show evidence to show it, in my view.

Where is could see some subconscious resistance is after the trigger is revealed and suddenly it turns Spike into a rage-monster, much different than before. All the predatory-ness have gone and he's just the demon lashing out. One could see this as Spike fighting the trigger (although I doubt it for various reasons).
Again, because this is S7 writing there's no actual interesting reveal to mull over so its just some weird bit of discontinuity.

Also blood breaking mind control isn't unprecedented with Dracula something within his is what she reacts to breaking his hold over her.
Yeah, I mentioned this, the whole blood tasting thing. Not just with Drac but also way back in Prophecy Girl against The Master. Something about blood-tasting makes the mind-control thing go all wonky on both sides.

It's also a possibility the First wants Buffy to find out and kill him.
I'm not sure this makes sense since trigger!Spike is a massive asset to The First. Buffy just killing Spike seems like a waste of a resource. In fact it worked to its advantage that Spike, even when discovered, was brought into Buffy's group of allies with his trigger still intact.
Like a dagger aimed at the heart of the scoobies that Buffy willingly put there, but that's another story.
 

TriBel

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But then, this would make him culpable for the deaths, whereas he is pretty much given a pass for them after his trigger is eliminated. Of course, he does almost kill Robin later, so I guess the unanswered question is, how much has the soul really changed him? Or, how much control does it exert vs. the demon still in him?
No...because the drives are unconscious...he's no more responsible than a sleep-walker. Damn...Sleeper...of course.

I hate the idea of Spike somehow having even a little control of how/where he kills precisely because it makes him more culpable. He doesn't seem to be aware of any of his predatory behavior until he starts investigating.
He has absolutely no control - he's not aware. What happens in the unconscious stays in the unconscious unless there's a therapeutic intervention as Giles performs later (or it slips out in dreams/parapraxis etc.). He's given a clue and he investigates. Guess who is reckoned to be the prototype for the detective? Oedipus...striving to attain the terrifying truth about himself. There are numerous examples of parapraxis (Freudian slips) in S7.

There's some confusion over terms. "The unconscious and subconscious are two distinct phenomena. The unconscious is a process that happens automatically and is not available for introspection. The subconscious, by contrast, is part of our consciousness process that is not actively in focal awareness".

I think the subconscious is sometimes called the pre-conscious
 
Stake fodder
Stake fodder
Posted below before I saw this. Good points about the unconscious.

Stake fodder

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Because it's not his fault. Subconscious awareness and even resistance is not culpability because otherwise it's not fair - how can you condemn someone for what they can't control!
Well, that was my question - did he have some control? But I tend to agree with you and with this:
Again, because this is S7 writing there's no actual interesting reveal to mull over so its just some weird bit of discontinuity.
I think you're right, but, continuing the thought experiment, this is also a really interesting point:
Maybe he targeted Holden because that guy is really chatty and insightful and knew Buffy and then maybe Holden would reveal who sired him. Maybe that was Spike's plan all along...
 

TriBel

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You start speculating 'well, maybe he had enough wherewithal to control where he killed his victims and it begins to get murky. He could control where, he wanted to be stopped but couldn't, except that he could stop with Buff... so hey, maybe he could've tried harder then? Maybe he could've left Buffy a subconscious clue? Maybe he could select a particular victim? Instead of where it was who?
Maybe that was Spike's plan all along...
You could speculate all you wanted but you'd need textual or contextual or theoretical evidence to back it up. I tied it into the fundamental Id drives/instincts/triebes.

"Maybe he could've left Buffy a subconscious clue?" Possibly...but he couldn't "think" "I'll leave Buffy a clue". Losing his lighter might work..."accidents" are sometimes an indication but they didn't write it in. Besides, an accident can be just an accident.

Maybe he could select a particular victim? Again, would work but it would probably need to be someone who resembled someone he knew otherwise it's too arbitrary.

Maybe he targeted Holden because that guy is really chatty and insightful and knew Buffy and then maybe Holden would reveal who sired him. It's "coincidence" and sometimes coincidence isn't coincidental...but I think there's too much thought involved there.

@Stake fodder Posted below before I saw this. Good points about the unconscious.

@Stake fodder I apologise. I spent a couple of hours responding to your original questions then scrapped it because it digressed all over the place. Don't suppose you've read Slaughterhouse 5 or Pilgrims Progress have you? I've read the first (and forgotten it) but not the second. @katmobile - kat, have you read them?
 
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Stake fodder
Stake fodder
I've read Pilgrim's Progress.
K
katmobile
No - but Pilgrim's Progress always intruiged me it's mentioned a lot in Little Women and Vanity Fair takes its title from it.

TriBel

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@Stake fodder I've read Pilgrim's Progress.

Sigh...I embarrassed myself into buying an e-copy. It's kinda shaming that someone with a background in English Lit hasn't read it (I probably won't read it). Sleeper (and most of the episode titles) have more than one meaning. I think Help is one of these - not only do Cassie and Spike need help...it also "helps" the viewer. Cassie's reading Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse 5 (Vonnegut's a pin-up boy for postmodernism). All I can really remember is the main character becomes "unstuck in time" because of trauma and his name is Billy Pilgrim (hence the link to Pilgrim's Progess). Billy's obviously the diminutive of William (a useful coincidence, I think) but Spike's also "unstuck in time" in the sense that he slips back and forth between the present and the past...the conscious and the unconscious (as do most of the main characters in S7). I've just checked and it seems both Wilcox and Kellner mention Pilgrim's Progress in relation to BtVS. Kellner's essay is here (I haven't read it):

 
Stake fodder
Stake fodder
Thanks for the link to the interesting essay! The mention of PP in it is just incidental though, as another example of allegory.

Dora

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Spike knew Buffy would not kill him , that's why he asked her to do it ...Spike should have not made it passed S2 without the attempts on Buffy life , Buffy rape etc
 

thrasherpix

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Spike knew Buffy would not kill him , that's why he asked her to do it
I hadn't thought of that, but I can see Spike thinking this! By season 5 I just had to get used to that there was no line Spike could cross that would end with him turning to dust, so stopped being surprised by that.
 

katmobile

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Spike knew Buffy would not kill him , that's why he asked her to do it ...Spike should have not made it passed S2 without the attempts on Buffy life , Buffy rape etc
Imagine for a minute Spike seeing himself as you do and that's what he's thinking in Never Leave Me - he's goading her into doing it. He doesn't know she'll spare him if so he wouldn't cast shade on her motives or hint about what he's done to girls as young as her beloved sister. If he doesn't believe he deserves to die or that Buffy's capable of doing it why does he deliberately do everything he can to manipulate her into killing him.

Maybe he shouldn't have made it past season two but she let him go because of pragitism - to save Giles and the world. Then she did because he couldn't harm anyone and was occasionally useful and then because of good actions - enduring Glory's torture and the demons to get his soul back.

Besides as Gandalf says 'many deserve death who have life, many deserve life who have death" in the end Bilbo's decision to spare Gollum's life means Gollum will save Frodo from himself and the world from Sauron even if his intentions weren't pure or even close but the lesson remains 'don't write off mercy'.
 

DeadlyDuo

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I always thought that the Spike under the First's control and the First's imitation of Spike was always meant to be a glimpse at the real "William the bloody" that neither the audience nor Buffy have ever met. Evil Spike in Season 2 was preoccupied with curing Dru then was wheelchair bound, Season 3 he was drunk and lovesick, Season 4 he was chipped, Season 5 & 6 he fell in love with Buffy and had essentially become "tame", Season 7 he has the soul. Even in the pre-Sunnydale flashbacks we did see of Spike, he did nothing that would've earned him the title of "most violent vampire in history (second only to Angelus).
 

Stake fodder

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Even in the pre-Sunnydale flashbacks we did see of Spike, he did nothing that would've earned him the title of "most violent vampire in history (second only to Angelus).
I agree that's very problematic in the depiction of Spike, that we just hear about his evilest deeds, rather than see them. Also, his reputation may have outrun the reality, as in Giles thinking his name is due to torturing people with spikes. Or is that true? We never know for sure. We need that dissertation that one of the watchers wrote on him.
 
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